Are Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments Right for Me?

OTC Acne Medications
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There are probably more over-the-counter acne treatments available now than at any other time in history. Here's some more good news for you -- many OTC acne products are very effective.

But over-the-counter acne products don't work for everyone. Before you spend a ton of time and money on OTC acne treatments, make sure they are the right choice for you.

Clues that Over-the-counter Acne Products are Right for You

  • You tend to have blackheads and/or occasional pimples.
  • Your breakouts aren't typically deep, large, or inflamed.
  • Acne is not leaving scars.
  • You feel fairly confident choosing an OTC product on your own.

If this describes you and your skin, an over-the-counter product may be just what you need to get breakouts under control. (If not, you'll get better results with a prescription medication. Not sure if you should try a prescription treatment instead? This article will help answer that question for you: Do I Need a Prescription Acne Medication?)

Choose a Proven Acne Treatment

Now that you're certain an OTC acne product is the right treatment for you, it's time to choose your product. But you want to make sure you get an OTC acne product that works!

Brand name here isn't what's important. What is: the active ingredient.

Choose an over-the-counter acne treatment product that contains a proven active ingredient like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

There are many good three- and four-step treatment kits available too. These contain a cleanser, toner, treatment lotion and sometimes a spot treatment or mask.

These are nice because they take the guesswork out of choosing products, but you can just as easily build your own acne treatment routine with whatever products you like.

This gives you a bit more flexibility. If you don't like the cleanser in the kit, you're stuck. You won't have that problem if you put together your own regimen.

Whatever OTC products you choose, use it consistently (this means every day) as directed on the product label.

Now, the hard part -- wanting to see results. This can take several weeks, so stick with it and try to be patient.

For specifics on how to find the right OTC for your skin: How To Choose an OTC Acne Treatment Product

Be Prepared to Move on to Stronger Treatments, If Needed

Not noticing any improvement after several weeks? Don't switch to another OTC product. If your current OTC product isn't working for you, odds are a new OTC product won't either.

You'll save yourself some time and aggravation, and get better results, by seeing a doctor at this point.

Over-the-counter acne treatments can be effective for some people. But honestly, they don't work for everybody. In many cases, a prescription medication is needed.

Prescription acne medications are stronger than what you can buy over the counter.

So even if OTC products aren't clearing your skin, a prescription medication can get you the results you're looking for. So don't wait to see a dermatologist if needed.

Sources:

"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Jan 2006. National Institutes of Health.

Whitney KM, Ditre CM. "Management Strategies for Acne Vulgaris." Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 4 (2011): 41-53.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 74.5 (2016): 945-73.

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